Farma Darya
Gisela Donahue is originally from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s a fitness coach and owner of Inspire Fitness. S LURAY PHOTOGRAPHY/Contributed

Staying healthy during the holiday season can be a challenge for any age. The Keys Weekly recently sat down with Gisela Donahue, fitness coach and owner of Inspire Fitness, to learn more about her journey and some tips on how to stay healthy and prepare for 2023.

We lived in Naples since 2017 before moving here in 2021. Before, we lived in Southern Vermont; however, I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa. My husband, Paul, is from Boston. He was part of a ski restaurant group, and after our first child, Kylie, we decided to relocate south for the warmer weather. 

When I was in Naples, I worked with a lot of country clubs, and I ended up loving it. My client’s goals went from the typical “I want to lose 10 pounds.” to “I want to function, get up the stairs, and enjoy life.” It grew another whole side of my brain. In the Keys, I have a nice combination of both types of goals.

Since it’s become more of a love for health and fitness than “I lost 10 pounds,” I find I connect with a lot more people as they can see the value of the work they are putting in. I often hear the feedback: “We went on vacation, and I could lift my own suitcases. I went to the beach with my grandkids, and I could keep up.”

If it’s about daily living, then you want to do it, and you do it with a different attitude. It’s a whole other way of thinking. Fitness is a lifestyle; it’s a journey. And it’s not just for the short term; it’s a lifetime.

My business is mainly one-on-one, and I have worked with clients ages 16 to 93. I have also done groups before. The group setup can motivate clients. I originally had a studio at Cirque Salon until September, but now I have created a studio at my house. I also have virtual clients and some clients I drive to see. The virtual also works if people are traveling or snowbirds and want to stay fit.

The main personal training focuses on strength and balance. Also, focusing on having a strong core to rely on. It doesn’t need to be heavy weights. The “old mentality” is women didn’t understand the benefit of weights and primarily did aerobic exercise.

Therefore, we work with a variety of exercise equipment such as smaller dumbbells, resistance bands, spinning bike, Pilates exercises and equipment, water rower machine and short burst of heart rate, AKA “hit” exercises. I adjust to what my client needs as I like to get to know them and what works for them.

Getting your core and glutes strong is essential. However, if there is an exercise someone hates, like burpees, I will suggest another exercise that still targets the area. However, some clients come to love it.

For me, exercise helps clear my head; I love it. But you still have to find the part in your brain where you think it’s important to your life. I truly don’t feel like I work — I am obnoxiously in love with what I do.

Part of my education is on nutrition. I don’t push nutrition, but I am there for them if they wish for my help. I have found keeping it simple has worked for me. Portion size and understanding what food categories foods fall in. I learned what is good for my body and roughly what I should take in.

How did I get started? All my life, I was athletic. Then, in my mid-20s, I walked a long path of infertility. I gained a lot of weight during that time. Once Kylie was born, we went to the mall together. I went to walk the stairs at the mall and had to stop twice to catch my breath. I was only 30. So, I had gotten so lost in my journey toward becoming a mom that I hadn’t taken care of myself. It was a turning point.

Where we lived in southern Vermont, it was a small town, so there weren’t any big gyms or trainers; therefore, I started learning and figuring it out for myself; within the year, I went from a size 14 to a size 2. I am 5-foot 3-inches tall, so it was significant. I then entered my first half marathon; people saw me running and training and started asking me for advice. Why don’t I do this for a living? I did all the certifications I could and took all the classes. So, one by one, I started helping people.

I took responsibility first and understood what it’s like to be on the other side.

There are some easy things to think about to help you get started — do you like to work in a group? Look for Pilates or Zumba or create a walking group and meet up. Do you want to be outside? Is it walking or running? What kind of person are you, and what will make it easy? What do you like the most?

But you must show up. Short-term goals can work, but when you stop, it goes, versus seeing it as a lifetime commitment. Our bodies are meant to move, heart, bone and joint health. Find what works for you but then working with me will help you commit.

Why do we wait for Jan. 1? People like to procrastinate, so they like to have a future date. But I say start today. You don’t know what lies ahead, so why not start today? The right to indulge over the top. Portion size, learn to stop, and don’t carry it past the holidays. Don’t think that makes you feel gross after. If your stomach feels bloated and sore afterward, why eat it? 

When I think of my holiday meal, I pick my portion, my veg, but I don’t go up for seconds or thirds. Have your dessert and your glass of wine. Pick what you love, portion size, and be done.

Top tips to help you:

  1. Practice self-control and responsibility, but don’t deprive yourself.
  2. Stay active — go on a family walk.

I work with clients to get them to love being active, so it lasts. There are going to be times when it’s hard and tough to work through an exercise, but then they say, “I just did that!”

Just give me 50 minutes, some water bottles, and a chair, and I can get you sweating.

Inspire Fitness’s hours are Monday thru Friday. Follow on IG @inspirefitnessfl and contact for a consultation and pricing 802-558-7982.


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